Launched in 2012, the Living Landscape Observer is a website and e-newsletter that offers commentary and reporting on the emerging field of large landscape conservation. This approach emphasizes the preservation of a “sense of place” and blends ingredients of land conservation, historic preservation, and sustainable community development.
The term “living landscape” is used because it does not reflect any existing designation or program. Instead, it incorporates the broad shared interests of groups such as land conservancies, local and state preservation organizations, heritage areas, watershed organizations, long distance trails, and community-based tourism initiatives that come together to support regional and place-based initiatives.
Today, the large landscape model in all its complexity is more relevant than ever. A global scientific consensus has emerged around the need to conserve 30 percent of the planet’s lands and waters by 2030. The Convention on Biological Diversity now champions what is known as the “30 by 30 Initiative” to protect biodiversity and mitigate climate change impacts.
While the large landscape movement was originally focused on natural resource conservation concerns, notably habitat protection and wildlife migration corridors, there is now a deeper understanding of the interconnected relationship between culture and nature. A region’s lived-in landscapes can be a valuable part of large landscape conservation efforts and, if the ambitious goals of the 30 by 30 initiative are to be met, must be part of the equation. To manage at such a scale demands a collaborative approach to resource conservation.
This is a pivotal opportunity for the field of historic preservation and specifically cultural landscapes to make a valuable contribution to these landscape scale initiatives. Adding the preservation of community heritage to these efforts enhances their value and provides new perspectives and partners. Storytelling is another added dimension that preservationists can offer to engage communities and build regional identity. Finally, preservation strategies add a much-needed human dimension to landscape conservation work.
The work of the Living Landscape Observer was recently recognized in an article in The Alliance Review (2021, No.3) a quarterly journal published by the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC).Founded in 1988, the NAPC provides a forum for historic preservation commissions to discuss mutual problems, to advocate for preservation issues that affect commission efforts, and to provide technical and educational support for commissions and staff.